Mysteries of history: myths about music and musicians

Mysteries of history: myths about music and musicians

Mysteries of history: myths about music and musiciansSince ancient times, the incredible emotional impact of music has made us think about the mystical sources of its origin. The public’s interest in the chosen few, noted for their talent for composing, gave rise to countless myths about musicians.

From ancient times to the present day, musical myths have also been born in the struggle between the political and economic interests of people involved in the music industry.

Divine gift or devilish temptation

In 1841, the little-known composer Giuseppe Verdi, morally crushed by the failure of his first operas and the tragic death of his wife and two children, threw his working libretto to the floor in despair. Mystically, it opens on the page with a chorus of Jewish captives, and, shocked by the lines “O beautiful lost homeland! Dear, fatal memories!”, Verdi begins to frantically write music…

The intervention of Providence immediately changed the composer’s fate: the opera “Nabucco” was a huge success and gave him a meeting with his second wife, soprano Giuseppina Strepponi. And the slave choir was so loved by the Italians that it became the second national anthem. And not only other choirs, but also arias from Verdi’s operas later began to be sung by the people as native Italian songs.

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Mysteries of history: myths about music and musiciansThe chthonic principle in music often suggested thoughts about the machinations of the devil. Contemporaries demonized the genius of Niccolo Paganini, who stunned listeners with his boundless talent for improvisation and passionate performance. The figure of the outstanding violinist was surrounded by dark legends: it was rumored that he sold his soul for a magic violin and that his instrument contained the soul of the beloved he killed.

When Paganini died in 1840, the myths about the musician played a cruel joke on him. The Catholic authorities of Italy banned burial in their homeland, and the remains of the violinist found peace in Parma only 56 years later.

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Fatal numerology, or the curse of the ninth symphony…

The transcendent power and heroic pathos of Ludwig van Beethoven’s dying Ninth Symphony gave rise to sacred awe in the hearts of listeners. Superstitious fear intensified after Franz Schubert, who caught a cold at Beethoven’s funeral, died, leaving behind nine symphonies. And then the “curse of the ninth,” supported by lax calculations, began to gain momentum. The “victims” were Anton Bruckner, Antonin Dvorak, Gustav Mahler, Alexander Glazunov and Alfred Schnittke.

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Numerological research has led to the emergence of another fatal myth about musicians who allegedly face early death at the age of 27. The superstition spread after the death of Kurt Cobain, and today the so-called “Club 27” includes Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse and about 40 others.

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Will Mozart help me wise up?

Among the many legends surrounding the Austrian genius, the myth about the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as a means of increasing IQ has particular commercial success. The excitement began in 1993 with the publication of an article by psychologist Francis Rauscher, who claimed that listening to Mozart accelerates children’s development. In the wake of the sensation, the recordings began to sell millions of copies all over the world, and until now, probably in the hope of the “Mozart effect,” his melodies are heard in stores, airplanes, on mobile phones and telephone waiting lines.

Subsequent studies by Rauscher, which showed that neurophysiological indicators in children are actually improved by music lessons, have not been popularized by anyone.

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Musical myths as a political weapon

Historians and musicologists never cease to argue about the causes of Mozart’s death, but the version that Antonio Salieri killed him out of envy is another myth. Officially, historical justice for the Italian, who was in fact much more successful than his fellow musicians, was restored by a Milan court in 1997.

It is believed that Salieri was slandered by musicians of the Austrian school in order to undermine the strong position of his Italian rivals at the Viennese court. However, in popular culture, thanks to the tragedy of A.S. Pushkin and the film by Milos Forman, the stereotype of “genius and villainy” was firmly entrenched.

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In the 20th century, opportunistic considerations more than once provided food for myth-making in the music industry. The trail of rumors and revelations that accompany music serves as an indicator of interest in this area of ​​public life and therefore has a right to exist.

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